Jhulelal: The God of the Indus
Uderolal or Jhulelal, who is considered an incarnation of Varuna, the Hindu God of Water, is one of the most interesting gods of the Indian pantheon and his worship transcends faiths and borders.
Varuna, along with Indra, Agni and Vayu - the gods of water, rain/thunder, fire and wind respectively formed the core of a clutch of nature gods worshiped by the early Aryans. Their aura receded over time as the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva gained prominence.
But a trace of the worship of the water god Varuna evidently survived along the Indus and could well have been the core of the legend of Jhulelal. In fact by the 10th century CE, when the legend of Jhulelal began to swirl down the lands along the Indus, Sufi mysticism was added to the repository of influences, which combined to create this legend.
To the people of Sindh, the river Indus was akin to God, it was a life giver and a provider of wealth as it was an important means of travel and trade.
– To the people of Sindh, the river Indus was akin to God
According to legend, in the second half of 10th century CE, the province of Thatta in present day Sindh in Pakistan, came under the rule of the Makrab Khan (a.k.a Mirk Khan) who started to forcibly to convert the Hindus in the area. The people turned to the river Sindhu (Indus) for help. After 40 days of praying, fasting and rituals, a divine voice is said to have told the worshipers that the River God- Varuna would be born among them as Uderolal in Nasarpur, close by.
It is said that when the boy was born, he revealed his divine identity to his parents Devaki and Rattanchand. As he opened his mouth, his parents beheld the mighty river Sindhu flowing and an old man seated on a pala fish (a large salmon unique to the Indus river). It is also said that the child’s cradle rocked itself to lull him to sleep, earning him the name Jhulelal- The Lord of the Swing.
The day of Jhulelal’s birth is celebrated every year as the festival of Cheti Chand, which usually falls in the months of March/April.
The news of the boy’s birth spread and when the Wazir of the region came to investigate, Uderolal changed from an infant to a young man, then a mature bearded man and finally a white haired old man right before his eyes.The Wazir conveyed the news of this miracle to Mirk Khan, who sent a regiment to arrest Uderolal. But the soldiers were stopped simultaneously by a flooding river and the burning towers of their own palace! Appearing before the panic stricken soldiers, Uderolal preached a message of peace. He is believed to have said
‘He whom you call Allah and my people call Krishna, are but one and the same!’
Uderolal is said to have been swallowed up by the earth after this and the awed tyrant Mirk Khan, reformed . The Hindus of Thatta built a temple at the spot where Uderolal was swallowed up by the earth and the Muslims built a dargah next to it, as a mark of respect.
Sindh, the cradle of some of the biggest urban centres of the Harappan period, was one of the first areas to be ruled by Islamic rulers in the 8th century CE. It was also the gateway for many Sufi minstrels who made their way into India, even settling there. It is perhaps a factor of this, that the land continued to be a secular haven, where Hindus and Muslims co-existed peacefully till India’s partition with Pakistan in 1947, drove a wedge.
– The Hindus of Thatta built a temple at the spot where Uderolal was swallowed up by the earth and the Muslims built a dargah next to it
Over the centuries, the Sufi and Hindu mystics of Sindh leaned on each other creating a unique amalgam of beliefs and in many senses Jhulelal, reflects this coming together. The God of the Indus worshiped as Jhulelal and Uderolal by the Hindus, is also revered as Zinda Pir, by the local Muslims.
This is not difficult to fathom. After all, how can a river god be anything but universal. Especially, one that personifies the great Indus or Sindhu, from whom a community - ‘Sindhi’, a province ‘Sindh’; a religion ‘Hindu’ and a country - India, all get their name!
With Inputs from: I am a Sindhi by JP Vaswani
Cover Image: Jai Babu via Pinterest